Football

Southampton exit the Europa League after embarassing defeat to FC Midtjylland

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Southampton were sent crashing out of Europe on Thursday evening courtesy of a strike from FC Midtjylland's very own 'Big Dunc'.

Former Celtic striker Morten Rasmussen was given the nickname 'Duncan' during his early years with AGF Aarhus as he reminded a coach of former Everton forward Duncan Ferguson with the Denmark international even sporting the moniker on the back of his shirt.

And he provided the moment of inspiration to send the Danish champions into the Europa League group stages, with Ronald Koeman's Southampton losing 1-0 on the night and falling at the final hurdle of qualification.

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Having made heavy weather of a first-leg draw at St Mary's a week ago, Southampton were unable to get on the scoresheet at the soaked MCH Arena in Herning and will now go back to focusing on the stuttering start they have made to their domestic campaign.

After passing up several chances to open the scoring and chalk up a crucial away goal, Jay Rodriguez was guilty of a sloppy pass on the edge of his own penalty area that led to Rasmussen slotting home the decider.

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Saints nearly ahead inside opening four minutes as captain Fonte threw himself at Ward-Prowse's corner only to see his goalbound header cleared off the line by Jakob Poulsen.

The visitors were in behind again moments later with Rodriguez opting to pass rather than shoot, leading to a Ward-Prowse effort cannoning away off the covering defender.

With heavy rain setting in, Southampton should have been in-front at the midway point of the first-half as Davis turned in the box before shooting low at Midtjylland goalkeeper Johan Dahlin, who pushed the effort away and into the path of the offside Rodriguez.

And it was Rasmussen who showed Saints how to finish, latching onto Bach Bak's pass after Rodriguez had gifted possession to the Midtjylland skipper and tucking away his first chance of the night with aplomb.

Pione Sisto could have made things worse for the Premier League side but he lacked the composure to beat Maarten Stekelenburg when inside the box.

Rodriguez, looking to atone for the role he played in Southampton falling behind, rose well to meet Cuco Martina's cross but his header was too close to Dahlin to level.

After the break it was Rasmussen left kicking himself as he could only head Jesper Lauridsen's free-kick wide of Stekelenburg's post despite poor marking by the Saints' backline.

With Southampton pushing men forward in search of an equaliser, Midtjylland were starting to find more space on the counter-attack and referee Liran Liany had a big decision to make when Matt Targett brought down the marauding Rilwan Hassan - with a yellow card shown to the young full-back.

Daniel Royer should have sewn up the tie with 10 minutes remaining but his rising effort from the edge of the area flew inches over Stekelenburg's crossbar but it did not prove costly as a strong rearguard held off late Southampton pressure to end their brief European adventure.

TWEET OF THE MATCH

PLAYER RATINGS

Southampton

Maarten Stekelenburg: 6 (out of 10)

Cuco Martina: 5

Maya Yoshida: 6

Jose Fonte: 5

Steven Caulker: 6

Matt Targett: 5

Oriol Romeu: 6

Steven Davis: 6

James Ward-Prowse: 6

Jay Rodriguez: 5

Graziano Pelle: 5

Substitutes:

Dusan Tadic: 5

Shane Long: 5

Juanmi: 5

STAR PLAYER

Morten Rasmussen: Coolly tucked away his first chance of the night after Southampton had already passed up a couple of decent opportunities, and that goal ultimately proved enough to get his side into the group stages.

Would have capped his performance had he turned in a second-half header but instead put it wide but still the key difference on a night where individual brilliance was at a premium.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

Jakob Poulsen: The night could have got off to the perfect start had Jose Fonte seen his early diving header give the visitors the lead but, unfortunately for the Saints skipper, Poulsen was on hand to head away off the line with goalkeeper Johan Dahlin well beaten.

VIEW FROM THE BENCH

Ronald Koeman persevered with the 5-3-2 formation he trialled in Sunday's goalless draw at Watford but neither of his wing-backs provided enough attacking options.

This defeat will hurt the Dutchman who was taking the competition seriously even at such an early juncture and he will be hoping it does not leave a hangover with Norwich visiting St Mary's on Sunday and Saints still in search of their first league win of the campaign.

MOAN OF THE MATCH

What has happened to the Southampton side who were earning plaudits for much of last season? Koeman admits his side have a weakness at the back with injuries and the losses of Nathaniel Clyne, Toby Alderweireld and Morgan Schneiderlin, but their free-flowing attacking game has also gone AWOL and needs addressing if they are to get anywhere close to European competition next year.

WHO'S UP NEXT

Southampton v Norwich (Premier League, Sunday August 30)

FC Midtjylland v Hobro (Superliga, Sunday August 30)

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Topics:
Football
Ronaldo Koeman
Southampton
Premier League

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